A summer of sport (and statistics)

It has been four years since sport last graced the cover of our print magazine. In the summer of 2012, the eyes of the athletics world were on London; this summer, attention turns to Rio de Janeiro as host of the 2016 Olympic Games. Like Britain’s athletes before them, Brazilian competitors can expect to experience the warm glow of national pride radiating from local spectators willing them to “win one for the home team” – although they might not want to stop at just one medal.

If the predictions published in our June 2016 issue prove accurate, Brazil will end the Games with almost twice as many medals as they won in 2012. That still will not be enough to see them top the country rankings, but it might be enough to help fans get over the country’s fourth-place finish in the 2014 football World Cup.

Speaking of football (or soccer for our US readers), the most recent season of the English Premier League has delighted many for the way Leicester City upended expectations and won the title, beating the bigger, more established teams which often dominate the top half of the table. Leicester certainly beat the odds: not only by winning but in surviving their second season in the Premier League. As Rob Gandy shows, the chances of survival are a lot lower than might be expected for recently promoted teams like Leicester, so their success should be celebrated.

Continuing our sport theme, we move from probabilities of survival to betting odds, with Tim Paulden investigating whether movements in the betting markets during tennis matches can help flag possible instances of match-fixing. The article expands on Paulden’s 2015 presentation to the Royal Statistical Society International Conference, but it also follows an investigation into corruption in tennis by Buzzfeed News and the BBC. That investigation – which looked at the differences in opening and closing pre-match odds – drew a lot of media attention, but here Paulden looks at what more we can learn from an analysis of in-play betting.

If sport is not your thing, we also have articles on the digital economy and data sharing, the beautiful but dangerous bell curve, and the dynamics of inequality.

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